Near my desk is an old Polaroid snapshot of my grandmother, also known as Grandpa*, sitting at a card table surrounded by six men and women. Three women are behind the group posing for the camera, as well as the two men and another woman, who pause for a moment in their game of Chinese Checkers to smile for the photo. Grandpa never looks up but instead is plotting her next move of the marbles.
The photo was taken at a Senior Citizens Club years ago, and I recall asking Grandpa, "Why, didn't you look up at the camera? You knew that photo was going in the paper, didn’t you?”
“Shoot, I took the time to plan my strategy rather than worry about such foolishness!” She declared, “I won, too!”
The photo hangs in a dominant place to remind me of the spirit of a woman who was approaching 90 years old and who never wasted one minute worrying about her wrinkles, age or fame.
I was honored to be asked to give a speech last week at an Independent Senior living facility in North Atlanta. Many of the residents had read my book or my columns, so they knew what to expect.
They were a courteous bunch with twinkling eyes and warm hearts. Many came by afterward to share a thought or have a book signed.
Gina moved to the podium slowly with her walker accompanying her. Her silver hair framed her beautiful eyes and a sweet face that belied her age.
"You inspired me today. I am 92, and I loved what you said: "keep doing until you don't!"
I found out a bit later, Gina had excelled in life as a brilliant microbiologist, raised three children, and now was inspired to do more. Gina was the one who inspired me.
Helen, another young lady also in her 90's, creates museum-quality pieces of art from eggshells, creating small scenes with jewels and paint. Hundreds of these jaw-dropping, beautiful Faberge-like wonders adorn her home. She is still creating magic and providing joy because she is not done.
Our society loves youth. We need to look no further than billboards, movies and magazines to understand that fact. In our youth-oriented culture, we often overlook the beauty, creativity and intelligence found in the citizens who have passed their prime but still have much to offer and so much left to do.
I get a little crazy when folks start rambling on about their age, their ills and their wrinkles. Many long for their youth and forget their age is an asset, not a liability. I figured out a long time ago that those folks depicted in glossy magazines will eventually degloss, too. No one escapes it, but if we are fortunate enough to live a long life, then by gosh, live it!
How we deal with aging will one day affect those who will go through the same process. A few years ago, I accompanied my 10-year-old granddaughter and her friend, Lia, to Disney World.
While standing in line to ride the first roller coaster, Lia, suddenly seemed very concerned.
“Grandma Lynn, can you ride this?” She asked while reading the warning sign for folks over 65.
“Lia, I’ll be fine. Do you know how much I love a roller coaster?”
"Yes, but you might get hurt, or something bad could happen because you are older!" she said as she rubbed my arm and asked me if I had a heart condition.
"Lia, I am going to live life with boldness, adventure and fun until I don't. I'm not going to worry about whether this roller coaster is going to do me in or not; instead, I am going to focus on the fun we are going to have as we go yelling through the ride.”
No matter if we are 30, 50, 70 or 90, we need to keep doing until we don’t. We need to maintain our bodies with exercise, proper nutrition and laughter. We need to stay in the game, use our marbles, and plot our strategy for the next day, the next week, or until we go through that next door where Grandpa lives.
Keep on yelling through the ride and keep on doing ’til you don’t!
*Grandpa, the great inspirer, was the name my brother gave to my grandmother when he was three. John had six living grandmothers including greats, and only one grandfather at the time. He wanted to make her special. She definitely was!
Lynn Walker Gendusa is a columnist from Roswell and the author of “it’s all WRITE with me!”